March 31, 2024

The Resurrection

The Resurrection

Easter Sunday March 31 2024
Readings: Is. 25. 6-9; Acts 10. 34-43; Jn. 20. 1-18
Theme: “The Resurrection is Revelation”:
Αποκαλύπτω = (R=⨜ws Δa^2)
(R= Revelation; ⨜= integral of; W= Word; S= Sacrament; Δ=Transformation; a^2=absence 1 x absence 2)

A very happy Easter 2024 to you all.

The feast of the Resurrection of the Lord, that we celebrate today on Easter Sunday, brings to a climax the events of Holy Week, which we began last Sunday with their announcement in the celebration of Palm Sunday. This feast of the Resurrection reveals (unveils) the meaning of all of those events that we have remembered as we have passed through Holy Week. The betrayal, the suffering, the rejection and humiliation, and the eventual harrowing murder of the Lord enacted on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are all now revealed to be what they were all truly about. The Resurrection unveils the deeper meaning of all of these events.

The feast of the Resurrection is the fulfillment of the hopes that we hear echoed in our first reading from the prophet Isaiah. It is the inauguration of the long awaited feast “of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear”. This feast is a symbol of the victory over death and over the forces of evil which shroud the hopes of all the nations. And those words “all the nations” are key here. The Jewish nation understood itself to be a chosen people in an exclusive sense. It saw itself as having been chosen over against the other nations. Now, as we hear in our second reading from Acts, Peter understands that the nature of this particular election of Israel by God is so as to be a sign for all the peoples, for all the nations: “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” So, like Israel, all the nations are now acceptable to the Lord and it is the role of Israel, and the early Jewish followers of Jesus, such as Simon Peter, to preach this universal message of salvation to all the nations. In other words, the meaning of the particular election of Israel by God, narrated throughout the Old Testament, is so that that Israel can become a universal sign for all the nations that God is also their Lord and saviour. He is the one Lord who saves and redeems all peoples. There is no other God but Yahweh.

This message is powerfully proclaimed in our Gospel for today from St John. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb and finds it empty. At first she thinks that the body had been stolen, that someone has taken the body of the Lord away, and she is inconsolably distraught because she loves him so deeply. But Jesus appears to her and reveals that he has risen from the dead. In other words, death no longer has the final word, evil no longer has the ultimate power. His death has put an end to death. It is his Resurrected Life which triumphs over death, and the love of the Lord over the evil of the world. This is the final liberation and salvation of Israel. A liberation and salvation that had been long-awaited throughout its turbulent history. The promise made by the Lord, through the various covenantal agreements with Abraham and Noah, has now been brought to a consummation in the Resurrection. The Lord is the one who finally liberates and saves Israel and all the nations from death and from the forces of evil for Life eternal.

This message of liberation, of salvation, is revealed in the Resurrection of the Lord in two particular ways that our readings invite us to contemplate on this Easter day. The first is by the fact that the tomb is empty. In other words, the inauguration of the new covenant, of the new form of relationship between God and all the nations is now mediated through a mysterious form of absence. The body has gone, and as Mary cries out in deep anguish, “I do not know where they have laid him”. This absence, this mysterious emptiness of the tomb, is a key point that we are invited to contemplate, so that we may gain a deeper understanding of what the liberation and salvation brought through the Resurrection means for us today.

After the Resurrection of Jesus, God is mediated to us in new ways through the mysterious signs that God bequeaths to us, namely, through the signs of the Word of God and through the sacraments. As it says in Acts, he appears to those, “who were chosen as witnesses [to his Word], and who ate and drank with him.” This new covenant, this new way in which the relationship between God and all nations will now be mediated to us is through these salvific signs of the inaugurated kingdom of God: Word and sacrament.

The physical body of the Lord is no longer with us as it was when Jesus was living in Palestine in the first century. However, his resurrected body is now mediated to us through his Word and through the sacraments which act as the salvific signs of the new covenant, the new rainbow if you will, as was the earlier sign of the covenant made between God and Noah following the flood. Now in the new covenant, the Word and the sacraments are the signs which mediate salvation to all peoples liberating them from the great flood of death. So, each time we proclaim the scriptures his resurrected presence is with us. As two or three are gathered together in his name, his resurrected body is made manifest in the Spirit-filled body of the hearers of his Word. So too, each time we break the break and drink the wine his resurrected presence is with us, making the invisible glorified body of the Lord visible in the physical form of the material elements of the bread and the wine. The Resurrection thus liberates us from only being able to access God through the limitations of Jesus’s earthly presence to us. When Jesus was confined, by humbly accepting the spatio-temporal constrictions of his earthly presence amongst us, only those who lived in Palestine during his earthly life could have access to him. However, now through the Resurrection open access to Jesus through Word and sacrament has been granted to all the nations.

Therefore, the first lesson to take away from this feast is that the absence of the Lord, the empty tomb, inaugurates a new two-fold presence to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, namely, his presence to us in Word and sacrament. This new form of presence of the Lord is consequently no longer bounded by the limitations of space and time. This is the first aspect to understand of the salvific-liberation inaugurated by the Resurrection.

The second lesson that today’s feast of the Resurrection reveals to us about liberation and salvation is that the church is the new earthly form of the body of Christ. As Simon Peter puts it in our second reading from Acts today, “God appears to those who have been chosen as witnesses”. In other words, the church is that group of people chosen by God to bear witness to him, through manifesting his presence amongst us in Word and sacrament. The church is that body of people who witness to the resurrected body of Jesus now made visible in time and space through the Spirit-filled life of the church. We are incorporated into this resurrected body of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, which makes us his new body on earth. Through this incorporation, which is a new resurrected form of the salvific incarnation of Jesus liberated from the limitations of time and space, we are called to bear witness to this new bountiful life in the Spirit that is his resurrected body. Through the Resurrection, we have thus become messengers of the Gospel, mediators of his presence, and witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus now communicated to us in the form of the Word and the sacraments. In becoming part of the body of Christ, we are thus liberated and saved from the limitations of the mortality of our earthly bodies. Our earthly bodies have now been redeemed in the body of Christ in which we live and move and have our being.

As we proclaim the Word of God, break the bread and drink the wine together, the Lord appears to us as he did to Mary on that first day of the week at the Resurrection. This mysterious revelation is a new form of divine presence that signifies the newly inaugurated rule of the universal kingship of the Lord. It is a new form of signifying the rule of his kingship that is no longer confined to that of a limited earthly body, as we normally signify our presence to one another in time and space, and as an earthly king or queen would usually rule. No, this new form of ruling presence is revealed to us as a mysterious, yet wonderfully liberating and saving absence. It is so wonderful because it is no longer limited by the confines of earthly time and space. It is a presence which is poured into our very souls in the form of his infinite eternal life. Through this new heavenly form of invisible and infinite presence, the Lord is made visible to us through the eyes of faith. This faith in the Resurrection of Jesus allows us to see anew, to taste afresh, and to touch once again the resurrected body of the Lord in the Word spoken to us through the Holy Scriptures and in the sacraments that we celebrate as the body of Christ here on earth. In the worshipping life of the church, we thus enact, through our weekly Eucharistic celebrations, the inauguration of the kingdom of God amongst us. In the Resurrection, through the Word and the sacraments, the invisible and infinite God is thus made visible to us and we, just like blind Bartimaeus, can now see with the new eyes of faith. This is the second lesson of liberation and salvation that the Resurrection teaches us. Namely, in the Resurrection of Christ, we are no longer blind to the infinite and saving presence of God in our midst. The kingdom of God has definitively broken into history and the inauguration of its final consummation has been announced in the saving and liberating presence of the resurrected Christ amongst us.
Our God reigns.
Alleluia, alleluia, Christ is risen!

Happy Easter to you all.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.